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What They Said: UCF vs. Memphis
December 01, 2018
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UCF Coach Josh Heupel

Opening statement….
“Obviously so excited for our university, our program, our players again to take home another championship. Just really proud of the way our guys competed for 60 minutes. Obviously it wasn't going well in the first 30 minutes of play. Uncharacteristic turnovers from us. (We) had a hard time stopping the run early. But again, our kids just continued to fight and believe in the guy next to them, believe in themselves, believe in what we're doing inside of our program. (They came) out the next 30 minutes and played absolutely fantastic football. I appreciate our coaches; their ability to make adjustments at halftime; our kids having the maturity and understanding to be able to take those adjustments and go execute. And I'm just really proud of what these kids have done, not just tonight on the football field but since we've been here, 11 months of work building up to this moment.”


On playoff committee and UCF potential bid…

“I think I said it out there. You look at what this group of individuals has done collectively as a football team this season - being perfect on a football field, handling any situation that comes at them. I believe in the strength of this conference and the quality of players and coaches. Look what they've been able to do for two years straight inside of this program, inside of our program. To me, our players deserve an opportunity to go earn it on the field and play for it.”


On limiting Henderson in the second half…

“To me early in the first half, we had guys that didn't have gap integrity in the first half. I thought our backers weren't shaded enough so some of the combinations were able to seal off the linebacker on the second level, create some big plays. Structurally there weren't a ton of changes, some subtle adjustments by Coach Shannon and the staff but as much as anything we started to feed in blocks playing with great technique and playing gap sound.”


On national respect…

“Anyone that's been involved in college football - I don't care if you're coaching or playing - in my opinion, should understand how difficult it is to do what these individuals have done over the last 24 months. It's extremely special; it's rare, the ability to stay focused on a weekly basis. To handle adversity. To continue to compete at an elite level, knowing that you're getting everybody’s best shot takes a special group of young men to be able to handle that week-in and week-out for 11 months or for two years. So, I think if you're involved in college athletics you understand how special this group of individuals is.”


On 4th down play and success…

“Our offensive staff did a great job of designing something that wasn't necessarily specifically designed in our game plan in that situation. They did a great job adjusting off another fourth down situation. A huge run, explosive play, creating momentum energy and change the way the game was played the rest of the fourth quarter there.”


On what Mack was able to do in the passing game…
“I believe going in that we had an opportunity to make some plays in the passing game with our skill guys, potentially. We were able to hold up most of the night; we had the one fumble early in the first half with balls getting knocked out of his hands right. He's getting ready to release it. I believe in our skill guys on the perimeter and believed in D.J, and he was going to go out and operate really efficiently. I think he had great comfort in the game plan, was confident in reading the defense from the other side of it, played with poise all night long when it didn't go well early. A couple of turnovers early, but I was able to look in his eyes and see that there was no cause for concern. No hesitation. He still had a confident look in his eyes, was ready to go out and compete.”


On resiliency of team…

“There is deep love inside the locker room for one another, coaches and players alike. In the short amount of time the amount of energy the staff and players have put into building those relationships - they're real. That doesn't typically happen within 11 months, in my opinion. It wasn't easy; it took a lot of time and energy. But there is a brotherhood inside of that locker room. Our players, in my opinion and hopefully they'll speak to this too, but they love coming into our building. We love competing together; we have a lot of fun when we're around each other. We work hard but we have a lot of fun, and I think that shows in the way that they play in the way they interact with the coaching staff and with each other. To me this is one of the most unique atmospheres because of what we have inside of our locker room. College football locker rooms aren't always like that – it’s a special group of individuals.”


On confidence and play of DJ…

“Going to the football game, starting quarterback’s gone. Everybody has confidence in D.J. I think you saw that tonight and D.J. has got a lot of confidence in himself and played fantastic football. Since I've gotten here in January, no matter what has hit them adversely, they've reacted and responded in a positive way. They draw closer to each other; they believe harder in what we're doing. They continue to push in a positive way. Our locker room was extremely calm at halftime. There was a great belief that this is a situation that we've already been in. Similar to what the score was in the first half going in against Memphis the first time around. And I don't think anybody blinked tonight.”


On emotion of winning a championship...

“It’s big to me because there's 11 months of work that's gone into this moment. Our players, our coaches, there is a ton of time and energy that's gone into building your season to this point. I'm just so proud of everything that everybody has poured into our program. Building it, building this season the way that they have, this is a culmination of the regular season. It was important for us to go take a trophy tonight. I’m proud of our guys on how they competed and did that. And you know I'll leave it at that.”

UCF Redshirt Freshman Quarterback Darriell Mack, Jr.

On interaction with Milton…

“I just got off the phone with him before we came here. Just telling me he loves me, he's proud of me. We're going to have much more of conversation when I’m able to get in my room and everything dies down.”


On winning for Milton…

“Well I feel like coming as a team playing for our guy - he made major plays all year and helped his win a lot of games. Going out there and finishing and winning it for him, it was very big for not only me, but the team. It may not have been said as much but everybody knew, and everybody could hear that we were going out there to win for 10.”


On comparison to Milton….

“(McKenzie’s) a great player and he knows I love him, but I feel like I just went out and played my game. Made plays when I need to and got it done.”


On team playing through adversity….

“Since Coach Heupel first got here, he's always taught us to play through adversity. Whether it was putting us in situations or just a team talking about it, we have been playing through adversity all year and this is nothing different. We never held our head down and we just played for each other and got it done.


UCF Sophomore Defensive Back Richie Grant

On team brotherhood…

“We've been playing for each other for 11 months. Since the staff got in here, they've been putting us in adverse situations and seeing how we handled it. It didn't start out well but you saw the outcome of that. We've been doing a really good; we’re playing for each other and like they been saying, the bond we have on this team is real and unexplainable.”


UCF Sophomore Running Back Greg McCrae

On playing through adversity…

 “I think we've faced adversity a lot this year and not even just this year. This is just a great group of guys around in the locker room and when it comes down to it, we all play for each other. I kept telling Titus on the sideline I was going to give him everything I got. And he said the same thing to me. At the end of the day, we came out, came back and got the victory. So that's the type of team leaders and players we have on this team, we sell out for each other.”


UCF Senior Defensive Lineman Titus Davis

On comparing this championship to last year’s…

“It just shows that the tradition and the legacy that those guys left, we carried it on. We took pride in what they did and how they ran things, and the bond that we had last year. And that was one of the big things starting this year, that we didn't want that bond to leave. That was up to the guys that actually played last year, that contributed, and young guys that didn't know much, young freshmen, transfers, any guys like that, just helping them to buy into how we run things and how things go in the locker room. I feel like honestly it starts there, because if you have a guy bad mouthing the coaches in the locker room, that's just like a virus to the team. That's one thing that we always took pride in, just buying in and buying in and buying into what the coaches were feeding us, and it worked out.”


On playing through adversity…

“Starting off this year with new coaches, just buying into the way they run things and their scheme and just how things go with them, I think our guys just did it well. That transition was really great. For us as players, and as leaders of team, we had to buy in first. They started with us, just doing that from the get-go, trusting in Coach Heupel and his whole staff. Look where it got us - it got us to the top.”


On senior leadership and trust…

“He just told us to keep trusting the process. A lot of guys were jumping out of gaps and doing things that they weren't supposed to do. Going into halftime, making those corrections with coach, sitting down and just listening to him. He was very calm as well and his demeanor and attitude just spread to the rest of us. We knew that we were going to come out on top if we just trusted him.”


Memphis Head Coach Mike Norvell

On running game…

“We felt like there was going to be some advantages there in the run game, just things that we had we'd seen on film and it ended up being quite effective throughout the game. I thought these guys - Darrell, Tony and Patrick - all did a nice job of being able to operate that. At the end of the day, they didn't make any grand adjustments to it. They moved a little bit and we just didn't do a good enough job of executing to the finish. You got to give credit to them. They're a good football team. They won a lot of games. They've been in challenging situations before, most of them against us. But they've done a nice job of finishing. I mean, that's what it came down to.”


On UCF’s defensive adjustments…

“I think it's a little combination of both to be honest with you. They had some big plays; we weren't able to get to the quarterback and impact them as much as we'd wanted to. And then at the end of the day we had some missed execution on our run sets there in the back end. They did a nice job. They're a well-coached football team. For us, we knew there was some challenges. But at the end the day, they converted on third downs and were able to extend drives. I think we ended up playing close to 90 snaps which always is a challenge. It tested our depth there and it kind of hurt us late.”


On how to handle the loss…

“If you get to a championship game every year - win or lose, it's something to be proud of. But it's going to be disappointing anytime that you don't finish the goal that you wanted to accomplish. I told these guys, this football team for the rest of history, their legacy of the Western Division champions is something that I'm going to have a great deal of pride in. The thing that's impressive about the young men that I get to coach is, not only have they won divisional championships back to back years, but we're also winning championships with what we're doing off of (the field). Look at what we've done academically, the way that our guys are known in the community. It's a special group and I really am impressed with what I've seen from them. When you're sitting there 1-3 in conference play and you've got to respond, that showed the true character and heart that they have. To come out on the road in an adverse situation, we started really well in this game. We just couldn't carry it over to the end.”


On second half defense…

“They were moving the front, doing a couple of things that created some tougher angles. We had a couple of penalties there in the second half that put us in longer yard situations that really kind of strained a little bit, but at the end of day it really came down to those third down conversions. We weren't able to establish drives there in the second half. That was something that obviously hurt us. I thought we did some really good things running the football there early, had a couple opportunities there in the second half but just couldn't capitalize consistently.”


On moving on from a loss…

“Any time you come up short it hurts. That's kind of part of it. Tomorrow we'll find out where we're going for the bowl game and then we will re-evaluate this game, especially the second half and then we'll get ready to start preparing for the bowl opponent. There's some guys that are a little bit beat up and we're going to utilize that bowl prep to get them healed up and healthy and then we're going to put our best foot forward there to try to win a bowl championship.”


Memphis Senior Linebacker Curtis Akins
On brotherhood….
“In a Memphis game, that’s every game. When UCF - once they start capitalizing - their fan base basically plays a big part in the game also. Once you just make simple mistakes, the crowd is going to help the momentum, but for five years I've been in Memphis and everybody in the locker room I have the utmost respect for them. This year alone I felt the brotherhood in that locker room at the University of Memphis. We went to a championship last year; I felt the brotherhood. But this year, it’s not even close. I respect everybody in the locker room, upmost respect for them.”


Memphis Junior Running Back Darrell Henderson

On momentum swing….

“At the time of the game, you just got to be prepared for it and be ready to respond. I feel like the moments when it happened - like earlier at halftime when they made a big play - we just didn't finish.”


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